In chiropractic, gymnastics, injury rehab, post surgical, sports performance, sports therapy

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to prepare your body to perform handstands or any overhead activity. It was a four part guide to knowing what you need to do and some guidance on how you need to go about preparing your body for handstand and overhead work (you can find them here; part 1, part 2, part 3 & part 4).


The key principle to understand when wanting your body to preform any activity is; does your body have the prerequisite requirements to execute what you are asking of it. For example, if you want to squat in a manner which will save your body from injury and increase the likelihood you will perform at your highest capacity you need sufficient range of motion at the ankle joint, knee joint accessory motion (here is blog post on the importance of accessory motion), sufficient hip internal rotation. On top of the required range of motion, you need sufficient strength in several muscles to adequately control your body during the motion.

Granted that isn’t a simple task to ask of the regular person to fully know or understand. It is critical to have a really good professional who understands this and is able to point out to you where and how you need to gain the requirements within your body to execute the motions you desire. But, it is important for you to have an understanding of this so you know what to look for hence this post. At the same time I will try to provide some guidance and direction for you to start somewhere.

To continue to build on shoulder work, I will relate this next concept as it pertains to overhead work or handstand work.


When I go to execute a movement whereby my arm is overhead, four different joints contribute to the motion, one of those joints (a pseudo-joint) is your scapulothoracic joint. It is not a true joint in that two bones don’t meet, but rather a pseudo-joint that is your shoulder blades movement about the rib cage as it sits on it. This movement is executed purely by muscle activity with no articulation of bones.
This can be the most critical joint in shoulder functioning. Have someone watch your bear upper back from behind as you move your arm. Your arm can’t go anywhere without your shoulder blade being close behind. This coupled motion is vital in that the right amount of motion clears space for the shoulder joint to move without putting undo load and force on tissues around it (rotator cuff tears in the shoulder joint of the young adult population is often as a result of the lack of functioning in the scapulothoracic pseudo-joint).

There are several muscles that contribute to the motion of the shoulder blade when the arm moves, over 15 to be exact, but the serratus anterior, rhomboids, trapezius and levator scapula can be considered the most major. They are the key muscles that contribute to the main motions of the shoulder blade; protraction, retraction, elevation and depression.

The shoulder blade has the ability, and needs to be able to, move independently through those four ranges. Lack of ability to move through those four motions and with good coordination and strength leaves the shoulder susceptible to overload and injury.


Due to poor training, poor execution, poor exercise selection and our general culture that leaves us sitting for long periods we lose the capacity to move adequately through those four ranges. And even more so, we lose the capacity to move independently through those four ranges. Thus leading to poor motion of the shoulder blade with the arm moves which leaves you with less range of motion in the shoulder and more load on select tissues in your shoulder that will eventually lead to injury.

Improving scapular stability, or the ability to control motion through the shoulder blade, will go along way to improving shoulder health and performance, and that can begin with improving your ability to move your shoulder blade in a controlled manner through its various ranges of motion.

In the video below, you can see me in a slow, deliberate and controlled manner moving my shoulder blade with the use of the associated muscle(s) through its four main motions trying to isolate each range to allow for greater independent motion.

Scapular Clocks from Mahmoud Zaerian on Vimeo.



To execute focus on just elevating or shrugging your shoulder blade, then while it is elevated or shrugged, protract or round your shoulder around your rib cage. From there keep it protracted and depress or pull shoulder blades down. While it is pulled down try to retract or squeeze your shoulder blade back. It is important that while you go through these motions whatever position you ended off, at this point with your shoulder blade depressed or pulled down, you keep it in that position while you retract or squeeze back. If you aren’t mindful and intentional about this what you will do is move through a range you already have established and have strength in, not the parts that need improving.
Once you have retracted you will finish the square with the fourth side, elevating or shrugging while you have squeezed back your shoulder blade.

This exercise helps you gain activity in aspects of your muscles that don’t often activate and in doing so increasing strength within the muscles. This will help improve coordination and strength in the muscles that control your shoulder blade. And you may be pleasantly surprised that just improving activity in the muscles that move your shoulder blade in this matter will lead to better motion at your shoulder!!


Want to experiment? Raise arm overhead as far as you can and get a feel for how it feels to move it like that and how far you can move it. Now do the above exercise, one set going in one direction, second set going in the other direction and then retest by raising arm overhead again. What difference did you feel? And you didn’t do anything with your shoulder at all!!!

This is a good place to start. This exercise is a staple and should be part of your daily movement practice or warm-up. You brush everyday to keep the plaque off, well do this exercise every day to keep your shoulders healthy.

You can eventually progress this exercise by having arms raised in front of you as if in a pushup position and doing the exercise, and then eventually in a supported handstand and then a full handstand or hanging from a bar. Don’t get ahead of yourself, first build the base strength.

I will show other exercises in the future to help with this process.

If you have any questions about this or anything else to do with your health and performance of your body, contact me at

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